5 Tips for Transitioning Between Working from Home and Meeting in Person
Like so many things in life, coronavirus snuck up on us gradually — then left us scrambling to figure out the next step in our professional lives. For most of us, it meant a transition to working from home and figuring out how to take care of our tasks remotely.
If you’ve succeeded in that, there’s more frustrating news ahead with the next transition: As states begin to lift quarantines, Phase 2 of work in the COVID-19 era will involve some people going right back to the office — with others left to figure out how to transform a temporary fix into a long-term solution. Even if you don’t know which category you’ll fit into, here are some suggestions for making the ride as smooth as possible.
Commit to Your Space
For weeks, a work-at-home office hasn’t needed to be much more than a dining room table where you can put your laptop down after breakfast and pick it back up before dinner. For the long term, however, it’s much better to find a place at home in which you can invest your time.
You can find plenty of psychological analyses of clutter, but almost all of them say the same thing: To stay focused, it’s best to remove all distractions. This may require a large-scale removal of your debris, but that’s better than allowing distractions to constantly sap your attention span.
Work Out Your Schedule
Two months of uncertainty have created disruptions in our schedules that were disorienting at first, then sort of a relief as people cut each other a break during kid meltdowns and interruptions for grocery deliveries. The buffers of distance, separation, and general confusion meant that regularly scheduled meetings and tasks often could be suspended.
As nice as it would be to continue to lead our lives with no eye toward the future, though, it’s important to think about how you can better structure your time and return to a concrete schedule. It will need to happen, at least to some degree, as we resume in-person meetings and in-office operations.
Resuming a schedule is difficult at first, but it gets easier, sometimes much easier, with time and commitment. Remember to pace yourself and not overschedule, since having no time at all is no better than having no priorities at all.
Restart Your Network
Few people enjoy a Zoom happy hour as much as an in-person happy hour. As bars and restaurants reopen, you have to exercise caution about careful person-to-person contact, but an invitation to see old co-workers and friends can go a long way toward maintaining your professional relationships.
It might never be easier to get time with mentors and colleagues than it will be in the immediate future. As some offices reopen, in-person meetings may be restarting for some, but perhaps on a more limited basis. Instead of fully reopening your office, you or your company may want to rent public meeting spaces for important meetings or major conferences.
If and when this happens, you should be prepared. Bring some useful branded goods to distribute to your team, so that they return with a physical example of your business acumen, and prepare questions that are directly related to your career trajectory.
Review Your Tech Infrastructure
If you transitioned to working from home when stay-at-home orders took effect, you likely needed to adjust your tech. Now, as some companies transition to a split environment, with some work resuming at the office and other functions continuing remotely, you’ll have to be sure your interface is solid. Now’s the time to recheck and be sure your home Wi-Fi is functioning, and that your VPN connections are all in place.
Here are some of the questions to ask: What job functions will be performed from home, and which ones will be done from the office? Will they overlap? What’s appropriate to store on my home hard drive, and what isn’t? (Be sure you know your company’s policy on this.) Do I need a dedicated cable line to handle the increased back-and-forth workload? Consider creating a checklist that covers all the bases.
Give Yourself Time Away From Work
All work and no play makes a dull boy (or girl) — and a surprisingly unproductive one: Studies of four-day workweeks have found that they’re actually more productive than the traditional model. If your deadlines have become louder during the pandemic (or if they do so upon returning to the office), remind yourself that you should be working to live and not living to work, no matter how big your company or how lofty your business goals.
Take time not just to relax and take breaks, but also to try new things, whether that means digging a backyard garden, learning to speak Japanese, or even driving somewhere barefoot to feel the rush and freedom. You’ll find yourself much more invigorated, and maybe even much more eager, once you have to sit down again and get back into the thick of things.
We can’t know for sure what the work world will look like a month from now, let alone six months or a year. We can be sure, however, that it’s going to be very different from previous eras, and that some of those working remotely now may be doing so for the long haul.
This can provide many opportunities for those who plan wisely for their space, their time, their goals, and their people. As you shift to Pandemic Work Phase 2, think about how you can use this time to achieve what you need, or what you couldn’t have done during life as it used to be.